The other day (and by the other day you must understand that I could mean yesterday or six months ago) I discussed effort and how important it was, because it really is important. I absolutely stand by everything I said about effort being a finite resource and that whenever possible you should pour effort into the things that make you happy and fulfilled. That said I’m about to talk about the other side of effort, the side that people seem increasingly reluctant to acknowledge.
“You get an ‘A’ for effort” as I said last time and then moved on to talk about how important effort is. Let’s look at the other side of that thought. The unspoken part is that what you did wasn’t good or at least not good enough, whatever that means. It means that while someone was impressed with how hard you tried, the results weren’t enough and as far as most of the world is concerned results (especially professionally) are all that matter.
It sounds so ugly and mean, but it’s true and I think collectively there are large portions of the population, mostly young, who seem to resent that. They resent that they don’t get views, hits, likes, reposts, whatever passes for acknowledgement when they share their work, whatever that work is. And perhaps, most insultingly, they can’t make a living off their work.
Now, there are individuals who are highly skilled and are battling against conventions that belittle their work, especially in creative fields. They should be making money off their work but because they’re young, lack certain amounts of leverage, and other factors people want to hire them for basically pennies or try to steal their work. They are a different issue and are not under discussion here. I’m talking about the people who basically feel that because they have a passion for something and because they worked really, REALLY hard at this thing, they should get recognition, even if the work isn’t particularly good. Again, this is an issue that mostly plagues the creative circles.
If you’re an accountant and your numbers aren’t right, it doesn’t matter that you spent 20 hours on the file, the numbers are wrong. If you’re a mechanic and you can’t repair a car, it doesn’t matter that you really love cars and have spent hours tinkering on this one, the car isn’t fixed. Why then is there this idea among certain creative circles that even if your writing is poor, your drawing is bad, or your songs sound off, you should be praised for your work? That because you follow a ‘creative’ pursuit there’s something inherently more noble and simply trying hard is enough?
There is a level of subjectivity involved in all creative work, but at the end of the day if you cannot find people willing to pay you for your work you may have to reconsider what you’re doing. And when I say that I don’t mean stop. Heavens above; never stop something that brings you happiness and fulfillment. Those things are so important. But it’s also important to recognize that you may not be able to make a living off those things yet, and perhaps you might never make a living off those things.
I get the dream of doing what you love for a living, but I also think that it’s a pretty unrealistic expectation for a lot of people. Sure there are people who realize that their obsessive fan involvement in a show/movie/anime/video game/whatever won’t earn them a living *raises hand*, but obsessive love for playing guitar, drawing, or crochet *raises hand again* won’t necessarily mean you can live off those things either, and that’s all right. You aren’t less because you have to work a job to support what you love. I’d even say it’s pretty normal. And it doesn’t dim your passion or effort any. The key is finding a job you don’t hate, something that you still find decently fulfilling so you don’t drain all your effort and can save some for those things that feed your soul.
Effort is wonderful and admirable, but effort alone isn’t, and shouldn’t be, enough.